The 2023-2024 school year began this Monday, October 2nd, in Apure State with rampant deficiencies, puny salaries for educational personnel, educational centers abandoned by government authorities, and parents and representatives of students lacking the means to buy school supplies.
By María Eugenia Díaz
For most families today, the payment of tuition in private schools and the high cost of school supplies, as well as uniforms, also hinder the right to education for children and adolescents in this plains state.
Bookstores in San Fernando de Apure stated that the cost of supplies for this new school year increased between 12% to 15% compared to last year, which has caused a decrease in the sales of these products in a 30%.
Teachers, mothers, fathers and representatives consulted for this report envision conditions of the new 2023-2024 school year as much worse compared to last year. The minimum wage is 130 bolivars (3.7 dollars), while the costs of supplies and uniforms are rising. However, for mothers in Apure, their children’s education is vital.
They claim to have bought the school supplies in parts. However, women like Liliana Aguilera, a resident of San Fernando de Apure and mother of a 12-year-old boy, a student at the San Rafael private school, recognizes that little of what she has been able to buy has been thanks to her salary but she needed the collaboration of her family inside and outside the country.
“Last fortnight I bought three notebooks, I still need the uniform, the shoes, the socks,” Aguilera mentioned, because her teacher’s salary is not even enough to eat. “I only have one son, sometimes we have to ask my family and friends to eat, to buy medicine. The situation we are experiencing is difficult. Out of seven days in the week I only manage to eat well two days, some aunts welcome us to give us food,” Aguilera said.
Prices through the roof
The cost of a brand-name school shirt can be more than $16 (U.S. dollars), while a pair of pants costs the equivalent of $23. The cost varies depending on size and the commercial establishment chosen by the buyer.
For struggling mothers, paying school fees for their child is increasingly difficult. “I still have to pay 35 dollars for the registration and the first month of the school year. The uniforms increased by about 20 dollars, I have to change the shirt, because he is now in first year of junior highschool,” highlighted the interviewee.
Omeira Andrea, a resident of the Lomas del Este urbanization and a teacher by profession with 20 years of service, has a 17-year-old son with autism, who was only able to study formally, until the second year of high school, not only because of the lack of money, but also because his mother considered it necessary to prepare him for life through occupational therapy.
She states that Apure lacks a comprehensive care center trained to care for children and young people with disabilities who, in Andrea’s opinion, are currently “in the good graces of God” (abandoned) if the parents do not have the sufficient financial resources to be able to pay for their children’s education.
“I pay $25 for occupational therapy so my son can learn to function in society. I make it possible thanks to self-management and entrepreneurship, because I do not have a salary that lets us live decently as teachers, as people, as citizens,” she highlighted.
In order to guarantee the education and training of her son, and to survive, the educator with vast experience in the sector, also dedicates herself to selling sweets, cakes and ice cream, which are enjoyed daily by the residents of her community. “The situation in the country is critical for all citizens, active, retired and pensioners, due to the apathy of this Government,” she added.
She remembers that education professionals used to be able to cover their needs with their salaries. Currently, no one can live in Venezuela on a single salary. “It is sad how mothers cannot buy supplies for their children, they do not have enough to support them, we are forced to do other things,” she said to lapatilla.com
Economic situation of teachers
Ledys Ramos, president of the teacher’s union Fenatev-Apure, emphasizes that in this new school year, they still get “precarious” salaries. The teaching professionals have gone through more than 565 days without a salary increase. She considers it impossible to guarantee a successful school year due to this situation.
Ramos rejected the statements of the Minister of Education, Yelitze Santaella, who rejected the ‘mosaic schedules’, only two or three days of classes a week for the new school year. “In all of the country’s educational centers teacher’s will go to work from Monday to Friday, as stated by the minister,” said Ramos.
“How can teachers work every day with the same salary as a year and a half ago, with this country’s rampant inflation, the highest of all the countries in Latin America and the world, compounded by insufficient bonuses? How can they work? But how are the teachers going to stay in the classrooms if they don’t have food in their homes for their families, if they don’t have clothing?” she stated for this news site.
According to Ramos, this school year no teacher can buy a pair of shoes, much less uniforms for their children, because the salary of education professionals is completely devalued. She emphasized that teachers also do not enjoy social security for their well-being and that of their children.
According to the testimonies collected, the deterioration of schools is also a pending matter in Apure State for those who administer power. Educational institutions are halfway maintained through aid requested to and provided by education workers, parents and representatives. Minor repairs in the bathrooms, fixing a wall, among others, have become the responsibility of parents and representatives in the absence of the State.